Oleh to the Rescue

They may not make the news or qualify for rounds of funding, but an increasing number of Anglo Olim are making their mark on Israeli society

Oleh to the Rescue 758 (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
Oleh to the Rescue 758
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
By working as emergency service providers in the police force, in emergency medical care and as firefighters, strengthening Israel from the inside out.
Yaakov Guttman, 29, is an Oleh giving his all for Israel as a firefighter. Born and raised in Bergenfield, New Jersey, Guttman grew up on stories of his maternal grandfather, who was a decorated gunner pilot for England in World War II and then went on to serve in Israel’s Haganah.
From a young age Guttman wanted to serve in the military, and always thought he would be a US Navy Seal. However, on a gap year in Israel, to “connect to my land and invest in Judaism,” Guttman spent a year at the Lev HaTorah Yeshiva, where Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Yehoshua Fass was his rabbi.
“Rabbi Fass is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met, and he changed my life,” says Guttman.
Guttman joined the Israel Defense Forces in the Nahal Haredi unit, where he became a sharpshooter and a Krav Maga instructor, one of the first in his unit to do so. “I started out as the worst soldier, as I didn’t know any Hebrew,” recalls Guttman with a laugh.
“But I worked hard and was eventually the best.”
Guttman returned to the States and joined the FDNY. When he was called back to Israel for reserve duty he decided to stay. “I had such a strong passion for my land and country, and knew that I needed to come home,” says Guttman.
Becoming a firefighter had been Guttman’s dream for a number of years and he worked and networked single-mindedly toward this goal. He had been working with Nefesh B’Nefesh’s employment department in an attempt to develop a career in the “start-up nation” and secure a job in high-tech sales. But even during his job search, his dream of becoming a firefighter kept niggling at him.
Guttman started working in security, with the goal of becoming a firefighter. “It’s the perfect combination of civilian life and the military,” explains Guttman. “It was tough getting accepted at the beginning, but after the Carmel Forest Fire in 2010 (Israel’s worst civilian disaster), there were sweeping reforms in Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services, and 2000 new firefighters were hired.”
Guttman is now in the training course with 90 others. “In Israel everyone learns to do every job, all the time, every time. Standards have been significantly upgraded and our teachers constantly tell us that we are a new generation of firefighters.”
The high-tech sector is not the only area developing in Israel. Part of what’s so exciting about being in Israel right now is that no matter what profession you choose, you can be a pioneer. Israel is still such a young country with fields continuously advancing. If you’re innovative, it’s not difficult to break into agriculture, high-tech, education, energy, or security, to name just a few. Israel is constantly evolving. All it takes is perseverance, creativity and energy.
“Israel’s emergency services are changing drastically, and Israel’s firefighters are respected internationally,” says Guttman. “I love helping people and I am glad that I have the opportunity to devote my life to this.”